Head of HR Pradeep Bhaskaran shares his organisationâs tech strategies forÂ managing an agile and collaborative international enterprise.
By Simon Kent
In 2007, Pradeep Bhaskaran joined Cognizant to overseeÂ HR for 10 countries around the world. Today, thatÂ number is 47. As head of HR for global growth markets,Â Bhaskaran is responsible for more than 60,000 associatesÂ across 52 nationalities that speak 34 languages. AndÂ those figures are only set to grow.
The central challenge for Cognizantâs HR function is oneÂ of cultural management. It is all very well to have a clearÂ vision of how to manage employee responsibilities andÂ performance, but making this happen in such a globallyÂ dispersed organisation requires being aware of the majorÂ challenges felt by employees at each location.
Securing and retaining talent across many locationsÂ requires specific projects and initiatives at the groundÂ level. For example, Bhaskaranâs business works closelyÂ with government authorities to secure the right mix ofÂ local and international talent within Singapore. However,Â there are also broad lessons which can be appliedÂ globally to get the best from an organisationâs talent.
âCompensation alone will not make a difference,â saysÂ Bhaskaran. âEmployees will not stay unless the work isÂ good for them and challenges them. We have seen aÂ clear change in the demand to have meaningful work,Â and as part of this, there has been a shift towards peopleÂ wanting to move from project to project every nineÂ months or so when you used to have people staying inÂ one place for 18 months or more.â
In a fast-moving world and an ever-changing sector,Â Bhaskaranâs biggest concern is that his HR initiatives mayÂ not be relevant in 18 monthsâ time. He has to have anÂ agile approach to his people; otherwise, employees areÂ unlikely to remain sufficiently engaged to be productiveÂ or to stay with the business.
Taking on Technology
Unsurprisingly, technology and communications figureÂ prominently in Bhaskaranâs toolkit. In the last sixÂ months, his company has invested in a cloud-basedÂ platform which links together business associates andÂ provides them with access to learning programmes andÂ compensation packagesâthe latter of which can beÂ accessed and adjusted by the associates themselves.
Whilst ensuring these offerings are competitive is aÂ winning strategy, delivering easy and around the clockÂ access to such facilities is also important to keepingÂ employees satisfied. It is imperative that resources areÂ delivered in a way that every associate across variousÂ cultures and languages can understand, and that theÂ message and functionality is consistent no matterÂ where that employee is situated. âItâs very importantÂ that every associate across the globe has access to thoseÂ programmes,â says Bhaskaran. âWe need to make sureÂ that an associate at every level in the company has theÂ same access to information on the website and has thatÂ access 24/7.â
But if a company is to rely on platform-based systems toÂ support its associates, it must also ensure that employeesÂ are motivated to log on and make use of the toolsÂ that are offered. Bhaskaran says this requires a highlyÂ responsive support system that can identify and addressÂ the needs the employees. Cognizantâs recognitionÂ programme, supported by technology, is a key elementÂ of this strategy. âItâs about recognising associatesÂ at the right time,â he explains. âIt can be extremelyÂ cumbersome to do this, so we need a recognitionÂ platform where managers can discuss and recognise workÂ with their associates and where the organisation can seeÂ that the associates have done a great job.â
At Cognizant, Bhaskaran says that the company evenÂ leverages technology to aid in the ongoing developmentÂ of its employees. Thanks to the learning platform, everyÂ employee understands the strategy of the company,Â the direction the industry is taking, and the steps theyÂ need to take to advance. âWe are trying to make sureÂ every individual is responsible for his or her trainingÂ programme and for that, we need to show how itÂ works,â he explains. âThe associate has to understandÂ the changes they need to go through to grow in theÂ company, so we make sure they understand what isÂ needed from that standpoint. The other part of this is toÂ get the leadership in place which will develop associatesÂ and provide on-the-job training when required.â
What is the goal of all of these new platforms andÂ technologies? To create a global workforce that isÂ collaborative, agile, and adaptable. According toÂ Bhaskaran, todayâs world of work is highly changeableÂ and challenging, and HR leaders need to be preparedÂ for the impact of issues such as environmental andÂ technological change. Likewise, they need to be agile andÂ knowledgeable to deal with the challenges of managingÂ people as those challenges emerge and develop.
âWe have communication channels in abundance,âÂ he says. âThereâs WeChat, WhatsApp, and instantÂ messaging, but you must not forget the community. ThatÂ is very important. Today, as individuals, we do not haveÂ the solution to the massive problems weâre facing, soÂ you have adopt a collaborative approach. Collectively,Â we can make a difference and if we collaborate, we canÂ be creative and innovative. In that way, we can find theÂ solutions whenever problems occur.â